January 12, 2018 | by: Tom Kruggel | 0 comments
For some, 2017 will be a year to be remembered… for others, a year to be forgotten. But it’s not so much the remembering we remember here, rather the forgetting, at least those things that lie behind. Those are the things that need to be forgotten. Well… that’s what the Apostle Paul said, “… forgetting what lies behind…” [Philippians 3:13b (ESV)]
The hard part is the actual forgetting. But before trying to do the hard part, perhaps knowing what things need to be forgotten would be a good place to start. And before even starting at that good place, perhaps it would be even better to first remember that remembering does, indeed, have an important place in much of our lives.
In fact, many arduous Christian battles are victoriously fought on the plain of memory (e.g., “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” [Psalm 119:11 (KJV)], “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old” [Psalm 77:11 (KJV)], “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” [Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)], etc.).
Regrettably, this is the kind of remembering that we’re most likely to forget. And it’s not the kind of remembering that’s nostalgic or narcissistic - why those are the kind of memories that only lead to a paralyzed hopelessness. No, the kind of remembering we wish to remember always starts with humility and has as “ground zero” a foundation upon someone entirely other than us; it’s upon that someone who possesses the words of life [cf. John 6:68], and is the word of life itself [cf. I John 1:1], Jesus.
But now back to the part that’s before the hardest part: Identifying those things that need to be forgotten. Ironically for Paul, the things most would consider worth remembering are the things he wanted to forget – his self-achieved successes. He put his trust in them and they created a sense of self-righteousness.
As a result, those past sins (resting in good deeds) got in his way and distracted him from God, just as they can for us. Taking it a step further, it’s actually anything in our past (perhaps even most recently as 2017) that’s hindered our passion and our pursuit of God that needs to be forgotten. So what else might those look like?
Well, instead of memories of “success”, how about memories of failure? Or what about memories of past sin, some that in our minds are so heinous they defy forgiveness? And finally, how about memories of past hurt and pain that feels as real today as it did back then? Do any of these look or sound like things that continue to distract us from our passion and pursuit of God? If so, let’s unpack them a bit and do a deeper dive on the hardest part, “forgetting what lies behind” [ibid]. How do we do that?
While it’s good to learn from our failures, for sure, a continual recounting of them leads to self-absorption and the same kind of paralyzed hopelessness that wistful and prideful memories produce. And besides, “... God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28 (NASB)] (emphasis mine). Do we really believe (trust) all of that? Believing helps forgetting.
How about memories of past sin, even the ones that in our minds seem so shockingly scandalous that they’re unforgiveable and unforgettable? Of course, they’re also memories of failure, but at what point can they no longer be nailed to the cross? Seems like the word “all” means all (no exceptions), and thus it is written, “… having forgiven us all our transgressions” [Colossians 2:13c (NASB)] (more emphasis mine), they were “…. nailed… to the cross… having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us.” [Colossians 2:14b, a (NASB)]
And for that matter, what’s the point dwelling on them? If God separates them from us “… as far as the east is from the west” [Psalm 103:12a (ESV)] and remembers them no more [cf. Jeremiah 31:34], then why should we? Those memories are not of Him, just like the accusations of the “brethren” [Revelation 12:10b (NASB)] by “… the father of lies” [John 8:44c (NASB)] are not of Him. Do we really apprehend (possess) all of that? Apprehending helps forgetting.
And finally, the haunting memories of past hurt and pain that also occasionally interfere with our passion and pursuit of God. The suffering is real, for sure, but over time we come to remember that we’re sinners too [cf. Matthew 7:3-5; Ephesians 2:3]. Then hope, real hope, for change found in the all-saving, miraculous power of the Gospel of Jesus can set in for both us as the sinned-against, as well as the sinner.
Eventually, by God’s grace, we land in a place where we’re saddened less by the fact that we’ve been sinned against, and more that sin exists and persists in this world at all. Jesus said that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33b (ESV)] Do we really take heart (comfort) in all of that? Taking heart helps forgetting.
So now to conclude. But to close with only forgetting would be a disservice to us all, because Paul doesn’t just forget. No, after he forgets, he’s then found “… straining forward to what lies ahead”. [Philippians 3:13b (ESV)] As the Olympic Athlete single-mindedly pursues perfection and victory in their event, so similarly Paul now lays “… aside every encumbrance… to run with endurance the race… set before…” [Hebrews 12:1b (NASB)] him.
We, too, must lay aside the encumbrances of success, failure, sin, hurt and pain, and (like Paul) turn our hearts and our heads 180 degrees so our eyes are fixed “… on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” [Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)] That same joy helps our own forgetting, but also helps our remembering of what’s to come for those of us who will most assuredly endure to the very end.
So what will it be for 2017? A year to remember or a year to forget? Let’s do a little of both, by forgetting the things we ought not to remember, and remembering the things we’re ought likely to forget.
Time to strain forward with a Happy (Joyous) New Year…
Thomas Kruggel is a non-vocational Elder at Grace Bible Church and works in the City of San Francisco
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